Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vacation Comes to an End

Yes, I'm home again after a terrific vacation.  It was wonderful to get away for a while and see something completely new and different.  As you have come to expect, there are lots of photos, as we were busy each and every day.  From time to time Jan and I would apologize to the other for the "pace" but, when all is said and done, we both hung in there pretty well.  We saw so much that I decided to write a somewhat detailed account (including links to sites, restaurants, etc.), which can be found HERE, and to only cover the highlights in this blog.  To cover both the photos and the write up in one visit might be too much......

Two of the major events were planned in advanced and they turned out to be as much fun as we had hoped.
  • The first was to see an operatic production of Porgy and Bess at the Seattle Center.  Neither of us profess to be opera buffs but it was great to see such a professional production of a folk opera with which we were familiar.  It was 3-1/2 hours long, which would take some getting used to, and we both commented on how difficult it would be to sit through a production of that length being performed in another language (although every effort was made to help follow the story line).  It would definitely be an acquired taste, but we did enjoy seeing this one, which was set in the Lowcountry.  I'm always amazed by the mechanics of the scenery, and this was no exception. 
  • Our second preplanned outing was a day trip to Victoria, British Columbia.  We took the fast boat (Victoria Clipper), which took about 2-1/2 hours and was as quiet and smooth as could be.  It was well organized and by the time we arrived, we had booked a tour of Butchart Gardens, which allowed us to walk right off the boat onto the tour bus.  The city tour (and our guide) was great, but the gardens were beyond really will have to see the photos, which do not do justice to them.  There were rose gardens, Italian gardens, Japanese gardens and, my favorite, the Sunken garden.  It was really more than the eyes could take in.  Our time there went much too quickly.  We finished our tour and went back into Victoria for a walk-around, stopping in the Bengal Lounge at the Empress Hotel.  From there we went to the Parliament building, only to discover they were giving free tours of the building.  It was lovely inside and we enjoyed the impromptu tour.  From there we wondered back to the boat.  Unfortunately, this was that day of the trip that most travelers experience......the one where you totally zonk out and can't carry on!  On the trip back, I could hardly hold my head up or keep my eyes open.  Since much of the trip back was in the dark, I used that an excuse to let it happen.  It was a late night, but the next morning we were ready to go again.
Other than those events, all other activities were played by ear, depending on the weather, how we felt, etc.  On most days we were out by 10-10:30AM.   I truly enjoyed all of the greenery, the many shades of green that served as a perfect backdrop for all of the colorful flowers.  Even flying in, one is impressed with the amount of greenery throughout the city.  I had no idea I would be there at such a spectacular time.  Everything from Jan's back yard, to the many park, to most homes had something in was just spectacular!  AND, we had good weather!  Jan wanted me to be sure to mention that we had NO rain for the whole week.  It usually got up to the mid-70s by the afternoon.  While I found it a bit cool, it was mostly because we have been soooo hot.....and my planning could have been better, but with a few adjustments I was fine.

Another constant pleasure was the diversity and quality of the food, everything from the sweet, fresh berries we had every morning to the ethnic restaurants for lunch or dinner.  It was great!  I requested one meal at a real vegetarian restaurant and we went to Cafe Floria, which is a well known, longstanding veggie restaurant it the area.  The food was diverse, tasty and very attractively presented.  We also had Indian food (several times), Vietnamese food, as well as American fare.  All of it was outstanding and I loved the diversity.

There was so much to see and we covered as much as we could. Our first stop was Woodinville and the wine area, where we toured the beautiful grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle.  It was there that I ran into the couple I sat with on the plane from Houston to Seattle......who would ever expect that!  I also enjoyed the Ballard locks and fish ladder,our day in La Connor (beautiful little town in the farming area of Skagit Valley) and afternoon in Kirkland, Kerry Park and Parsons Gardens, the Japanese Tea Garden, and so much more. A fun day was downtown where we took a tour on "The Duck", which travels on land and in the water.  They were actually re-purposed landing craft from WWII. So, we had a rowdy land tour, with music blasting and passengers singing and "discoing".....and then drove directly into Lake Union for a tour from that vantage point.  Then, back on land to continue the tour.  It was great.  That afternoon also included Pike Place Market, a panoramic view from the Columbia Tower and a walk-through of the very modern central library.   I know I'm forgetting something, but it was all fun and enjoyable......and we only scratched the surface.

And last but certainly not least, was time with Jan, a long-time friend.  Friends with whom you have a history and lots in common are a real treasure and, once together again, the years of separation seem to melt away.  Our early evenings and leisurely lunches and dinners provided lots of time to catch up and solve the problems of the world.  Thanks also go to new friends, Katie and Frank, who had us for dinner on the night of my arrival.  I met them when they and Jan were in Savannah in March and it was nice of them to start my visit in such a nice way. It's always fun to get together with friends, old and new.  It was a fantastic break for me and Jan was the perfect hostess. I hope she will let me return the hospitality soon.